Feds, Trump aide’s lawyers clash over secret documents hearing date

It didn’t take long for the bickering to begin.

The first hearing in Donald Trump/s classified documents case to discuss how sensitive papers would be handled at his trial is scheduled for this Friday. But the defense wants to postpone it until some unspecified date, according to a motion filed Monday in U.S. District Court.

In its own filing, the government quickly rejected the idea.

Neither the former President nor Waltine Nauta, his sole co-defendant and personal aide, is required to attend the hearing before U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon in Fort Pierce.

But the discussion points are important as they would help set the rules of the road for how the documents in the case would be presented as evidence during a trial to be governed in part by the Classified Information Procedures Act. It’s a 1980 law that is designed to safeguard the nation’s security, experts say, while preserving a defendant’s right to due process and a fair trial.

Trump is accused in a 37-count indictment of seeking to conceal classified documents that he allegedly had no right to possess at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach while frustrating the efforts of federal agents seeking to retrieve them. Nauta is accused of assisting the former President in his efforts. Both men have pleaded not guilty.

Cannon on June 26 granted the government’s request for the CIPA-related hearing and set July 14 as the date. She has also set a tentative Aug. 14 date for trial, but the government has asked to delay it until Dec. 11. As of early Monday, the defense had not responded to the request from the office of Special Counsel Jack Smith.

In their motion to continue this week’s classified documents hearing, Washington, D.C.-based attorney Stanley Woodward Jr. and Fort Pierce-area attorney Sasha Dadan. who represents Nauta, said they have not had enough time to prepare and Woodward has to be somewhere else representing another client in an unrelated case on Friday. Woodward and Dadan said Trump’s lawyers do not oppose their effort to seek a new date.

Walt Nauta, left, a valet to former President Donald Trump who is charged with helping the ex-president hide classified documents the Justice Department wanted back, arrives for his arraignment along with defense attorney Stanley Woodward, at the James Lawrence King Federal Justice Building in Miami, Thursday, July 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Waltine Nauta, left, former President Donald Trump’s valet who is charged with helping the ex-president hide classified documents the Justice Department wanted back, arrives for his arraignment with defense attorney Stanley Woodward at the James Lawrence King Federal Justice Building in Miami on Thursday. (Rebecca Blackwell/AP)

Not enough time

“At all times relevant to this investigation, Defendant Nauta has been represented by an attorney licensed to practice law in the District of Columbia,” the attorneys wrote. “With little notice to Defendant Nauta, the operative indictment in this matter was returned in this District (the Southern District of Florida) and only recently, on Wednesday, July 5, 2023, did Defendant Nauta retain local counsel, Sasha Dadan.”

“Although government counsel asked whether Mr. Nauta’s longtime counsel opposed such a hearing — we did — and provided an electronic courtesy copy of the same, the government did not request any dates when defense counsel would be unavailable for such a conference,” the attorneys added..

At the time, the defense said, Woodward was not receiving electronic notices through the court’s filing system and the prosecution “did not advise counsel that the pretrial CIPA conference had been scheduled, and even when counsel did learn of the conference, Mr. Nauta had no ability to formally move the Court for relief based upon his counsel’s unavailability.”

That’s because Dadan, who was retained only last Wednesday, had not yet been hired to represent Nauta as his local attorney.


In its rebuttal, the government noted that nearly a month has passed since a Miami grand jury handed up its indictment against Trump and Nauta.

“There is a strong public interest in the conference occurring as originally scheduled and the case proceeding as expeditiously as possible,” wrote government attorneys Jay I. Bratt, Julie A. Edelstein and David V. Harbach.

“Neither of Nauta’s proffered justifications for his request is persuasive,” they said. “The first concerns Mr. Woodward’s commitments elsewhere. The government acknowledges that Mr. Woodward is scheduled to begin a bench trial in the District of Columbia.”

But they also noted that Dadan “should be able to be present.”

And the prosecutors said Woodward did not raise his conflict “during any of his calls with government counsel, and government counsel here first learned of the trial when Mr. Woodward mentioned it during the arraignment hearing for Mr. Nauta held on June 27.”

“Perhaps more to the point,” the government lawyers said, Woodward has yet to complete the form that would give him a security clearance to view sensitive documents that would be part of the case.

Cannon has yet to rule on the defense request for a new CIPA hearing date.

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